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A Letter from Barack Obama to the LGBT Community

I'm running for President to build an America that lives up to our founding
promise of equality for all – a promise that extends to our gay brothers and
sisters. It's wrong to have millions of Americans living as second-class
citizens in this nation. And I ask for your support in this election so that
together we can bring about real change for all LGBT Americans.

Equality is a moral imperative. That's why throughout my career, I have
fought to eliminate discrimination against LGBT Americans. In Illinois, I
cosponsored a fully inclusive bill that prohibited discrimination on the
basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity, extending protection
to the workplace, housing, and places of public accommodation. In the U.S.
Senate, I have cosponsored bills that would equalize tax treatment for
same-sex couples and provide benefits to domestic partners of federal
employees. And as president, I will place the weight of my administration
behind the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act to outlaw hate crimes and a
fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act to outlaw workplace
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat
same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws. I
personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that
equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not
stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to
pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples -whether that means a domestic
partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage. I support the complete
repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Federal law should not
discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely
what DOMA does. I have also called for us to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell,
and I have worked to improve the Uniting American Families Act so we can
afford same-sex couples the same rights and obligations as married couples
in our immigration system.

The next president must also address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. When it comes to
prevention, we do not have to choose between values and science. While
abstinence education should be part of any strategy, we also need to use
common sense. We should have age-appropriate sex education that includes
information about contraception. We should pass the JUSTICE Act to combat
infection within our prison population. And we should lift the federal ban
on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among
drug users. In addition, local governments can protect public health by
distributing contraceptives.

We also need a president who's willing to confront the stigma – too often
tied to homophobia – that continues to surround HIV/AIDS. I confronted this
stigma directly in a speech to evangelicals at Rick Warren's Saddleback
Church, and will continue to speak out as president.

That is where I stand on the major issues of the day. But having the right
positions on the issues is only half the battle. The other half is to win
broad support for those positions. And winning broad support will require
stepping outside our comfort zone. If we want to repeal DOMA, repeal Don't
Ask, Don't Tell, and implement fully inclusive laws outlawing hate crimes
and discrimination in the workplace, we need to bring the message of LGBT
equality to skeptical audiences as well as friendly ones – and that's what I've
done throughout my career. I brought this message of inclusiveness to all of
America in my keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention. I talked
about the need to fight homophobia when I announced my candidacy for
President, and I have been talking about LGBT equality to a number of groups
during this campaign – from local LGBT activists to rural farmers to
parishioners at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Dr. Martin Luther
King once preached.

Just as important, I have been listening to what all Americans have to say.
I will never compromise on my commitment to equal rights for all LGBT
Americans. But neither will I close my ears to the voices of those who still
need to be convinced. That is the work we must do to move forward together.
It is difficult. It is challenging. And it is necessary.

Americans are yearning for leadership that can empower us to reach for what
we know is possible. I believe that we can achieve the goal of full equality
for the millions of LGBT people in this country. To do that, we need
leadership that can appeal to the best parts of the human spirit. Join with
me, and I will provide that leadership. Together, we will achieve real
equality for all Americans, gay and straight alike.

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